Tribute to Fred E Smith

Fred Smith-06Expats in Angeles City lost a good friend a couple of months ago, when Fred E Smith passed away from heart failure on 12 January 2011. This tragic and sudden event happened without warning, leaving Fred sorely missed by many; but, this article is not about Fred’s death. It is to celebrate the life of this unassuming guy, a soldier, husband, proud father and good friend who touched the lives of so many.

Fred Smith-03A large percentage of the many people who knew and liked Fred thought of him just as a fun loving guy, happily enjoying life and the affection of his wife and three children. This was because Fred was very quiet about his military career. Though by no means a wilting violet, (everyone knew when Fred was around because no one could ignore his explosive laugh), Fred just didn’t boast about his military past, nor did he boost conversations with anecdotal war stories.

This is because the truth of Fred was that he was a soldier’s solder. When called upon to act, he acted, and when called upon to make peace, he did so; quietly and with dignity. He did not beat his own drum or make himself out to be something special; but, through his association and work with US SF, SFA and VFW he did much to help his brothers in arms: which in the view of many, myself included, did make him someone special.

Fred Smith-05To use an idiom falsely used by some, Fred, or to give him his justly earned title, Sgt. Major Frederick E Smith, was a guy that truly ‘walked the walk.’ During 30 years of active service in the US Military, Fred served in the 82d Airborne Division, the 173d Airborne Brigade, as well as the 1st, 5th, and 10th Special Forces Groups. His multiple combat tours in Vietnam included service in 5th SFG and MACSOG.

Fred Smith-04During his tours of duty, Fred did not spend his time behind a desk inactivity is something that just did not fit into his make up. Active duty for him meant exactly that, as can be judged by his many decorations and awards: Silver Star, Legion of Merit; Bronze Star with V and Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC); Purple heart; Meritorious Service Medal (with 1 OLC); Joint Service Commendation Medal; Army Commendation Medal (with 1 OLC); Army Achievement Medal; Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star; Combat Infantryman's Badge; Aircraft Crewman's Badge; Master Parachutist Badge; Military Free fall Badge; Combat Divers Badge, and the Special Forces Tab. In addition, he was awarded parachute wings by the Republic of Vietnam and the Kingdom of Thailand.

On his retirement from the US Army Special Forces (Green Berets), Fred did not forget his loyalties. Right up until his tragic death he worked with military associations helping his brothers, many of whom joined the throng packing the area around his graveside in Clark Air Force Base Cemetery to give him a final tribute.

Fred Smith-02Fred’s pastimes and hobbies were not restricted to association meetings; many knew Fred as a good drinking buddy, cracking jokes in Garfield’s or the Hang Out.

One of the owners of Redneck Classics, Fred had a passion for vehicles. Apart from his now famous big trike runs around town, often pulling his trike trailer complete with kids and dog, he was also a very active member of Angeles Hot Rod Association (AHRA) and was often seen racing his tuned pickup down the drag strip: and if not racing he turned up to support the other club racers.

Fred Smith-01Fred made friends everywhere he went, bikers to racers, vacationers to veterans. He accepted people as they were, and always went out of his way to try and help .- because that was just the kind of guy Fred was.

A once great man said that “old soldiers never die, they simply fade away.” That may be true of some, but it will be a cold day in hell before Fred’s memory fades in the hearts of those that loved, served with, or knew him as a friend. 

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